A PGA Tour End-of-Season Playoff Primer. Warning: It’s Complicated

Posted on 6th August, 2021 Source: Brad Ziemer, Guest Contributor


In case you hadn’t noticed, there really is no off-season on the PGA Tour these days. One season ends and another begins.

Play well and the gravy train rolls on. Struggle and you can say sayonara to golf’s promised land, where a 20th-place finish many weeks earns you a six-figure payday. 

That’s what makes this time of year so interesting. You will be hearing a lot about the number 125 over the next couple of weeks. And no, that wasn’t what I shot last week.

Players finishing inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list remain fully exempt for the 2021-22 season, which begins a week or two after the current one ends in early September. They also qualify for lucrative season-ending playoffs, but we’ll get to that later.

The really compelling stuff is watching guys play with their PGA Tour lives on the line. Only two regular-season events remain for players trying to scratch and claw their way into the top 125 and for others who are currently inside that magic number and hanging on for dear life.

Let’s look at where the three B.C. regulars on the PGA Tour stand. Merritt’s Roger Sloan is on the outside looking in. Sloan is 137th heading into the Barracuda Championship, so he needs a solid finish there or one the following week at final regular-season event, the Wyndham Championship, to move into the top 125.

Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin is 107th and likely safe, but he’s playing the Barracuda Championship just to be safe and to improve his playoff seeding. Fellow Abbotsford product Nick Taylor is 147th, but that is not as dire as it sounds. Taylor remains fully exempt for the 2021-22 season as a result of his win at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Sloan is the interesting story here. He also has to concern himself with not falling below 150th on the points list. There’s a special category for players finishing 126th to 150th on the points list and typically those players draw into 12 to 15 events the following year. And some status is certainly better than no status.

Even if Sloan fails to move inside the top 125, he’ll get a second chance to secure his exempt status. Players finishing 126th to 200th on the FedEx Cup points list compete with the top 75 players on the Korn Ferry Tour points list in three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events where the top 25 performers in those three events get full PGA Tour cards.

Hope you’re still with me because this is as tough as trigonometry to explain.

Two British Columbians, Surrey’s Adam Svensson and Stuart Macdonald of Vancouver, will be among the 75 Korn Ferry Tour players competing in those Finals events. Svensson already has his PGA Tour status locked up by virtue of the fact he is going to finish the regular season in the top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list. He can further enhance his ‘number’ by playing well in those Finals events.

Macdonald will have an opportunity to change his life with strong play in those three events. His game has come to life in recent months and he has a real opportunity to play on the PGA Tour next year and qualify for those aforementioned FedEx Cup playoffs.

The money is just crazy for the three FedEx Cup playoff events. Everyone finishing inside the top 125 gets into the first one, The Northern Trust. Only the top 80 will survive to play the second playoff event, the BMW Championship, with the top 30 playing in the Tour Championship, which goes Sept. 2-5.

The total bonus pool for the FedEx Cup playoffs is $60 million, with the FedEx Cup champion earning $15 million. And that’s not including the three massive purses the players will compete for in those playoff events.

So yeah, if you are on the PGA Tour you want to stay there. And if you’re not, its fairways are your field of dreams.

Brad Ziemer covered the B.C. golf scene for the Vancouver Sun for nearly 25 years. He is a past recipient of Golf Canada’s Distinguished Service Award and the PGA of British Columbia’s Patron of the Year award.

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